Vaughn inmate lawsuit claims DOC staff ‘terrorized’ him following uprising

DOVER — Vaughn prison inmate Donald Parkell filed an answering brief on Tuesday insisting that the defendants’ multiple motions to dismiss his lawsuit be denied.

Parkell claimed shortly after the Feb. 1 inmate uprising last year that he too was held as an innocent hostage during the incident. Later that month, he filed a 14-page handwritten complaint accusing state officials of creating an environment that led to the violent uprising that left Lt. Steven Floyd dead and six other staff members injured or otherwise traumatized. He also claims that he and fellow inmates were unconstitutionally denied medical care and religious diets after the riot and were subject to violent retaliations from correctional officers.

Parkell claimed to be one of the “three” inmates who protected counselor Patricia May (a hostage) during the uprising. Parkell, who is currently incarcerated at Vaughn, according to an online prison registry, has filed a series of actions against the Delaware Department of Correction in the past.

Since the initial filing, Department of Justice attorneys have filed several motions to dismiss the lawsuit, mostly hinging their arguments on the claim that Parkell’s allegations were “broad and undefined” and that state officials named as defendants in the lawsuit are protected from civil liability in the reasonable performance of their jobs.

The lawsuit lists former Gov. Jack Markell, former Vaughn Warden David Pierce, current Warden Dana Metzger, Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps and several other administration officials.

Wilmington attorney James Green continued Parkell’s argument in the Tuesday brief claiming that because the complaint contains sufficient factual matter, former-Gov. Markell is not protected by legislative immunity and the other defendants don’t have qualified immunity, the lawsuit should be allowed to continue.

Getting more specific than in previous filings, Parkell claimed that following the hostage rescue on Feb. 1 last year, DOC administrators “formed teams of officers to terrorize and torture inmates in retaliation for the uprising.”

When asked about the claims, DOC spokeswoman Jayme Gravell said the agency didn’t discuss ongoing litigation.

Mr. Green claims that, even now, Parkell, who was originally a ‘medium security’ prisoner, is languishing in maximum security.

“Plaintiff was an innocent hostage of the perpetrators of the February 1, 2017 takeover of Building C which was a direct and foreseeable — indeed predicted — result of the Defendants’ deliberate actions and/or deliberate indifference to the known security risks of JTVCC and certain inmates, including the perpetrators of the takeover,” reads the brief.

“As a result, Plaintiff was physically injured protecting Ms. May and suffered severe mental and emotional distress as a result of the incident. Although classified as a medium security prisoner, and known by Defendants not to have been a perpetrator of the takeover and criminal acts, he has been placed in maximum security since February 2, 2017, deprived of much needed medical, mental, and dental treatment, his food rations have been reduced, and his personal property seized and not returned. His physical and mental health has deteriorated because of his isolated confinement, but he still he has not been provided treatment.”

The brief goes on to say “only discovery will reveal the facts behind” the failures that led to the uprising and alleged abuses that followed.

Eighteen inmates were indicted last October on charges related to the riot — including 16 accused of the murder of Lt. Floyd. A lawsuit brought against the state by the Lt. Floyd’s family and the survivors of the riot settled in December for a historic $7.55 million. The defendants still admit no liability.

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